Lyme vaccine bus heads to the high school

School officials also tackle regional agreement for MSBA funding.

The school committee has agreed to let Pfizer use the high school parking lot to do its Lyme vaccine trials. — Rich Saltzberg

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School committee agreed at Monday’s meeting to house a Lyme vaccine clinic bus at the football field parking lot for three weeks, beginning on August 4. 

Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant that developed lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines, is working toward a vaccine against Borrelia burgdorferi, the tick-borne bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Pfizer is developing the vaccine with French pharmaceutical company Valneva. Phase 3 trials of the drug will take place on the Vineyard to determine the extent of protection the vaccine provides. Care Access, the Boston-based company that conducts the fieldwork for Pfizer, will house its clinic at the high school for approximately three weeks, and will pay the school $120 per day of operation. The company has offered to station porta-potties near the mobile clinic, and the bus that houses the operation is entirely electrically self-sufficient, so the school will not need to provide access inside the actual school building. Care Access has agreed to provide a certificate of insurance, and will carry all liability during the course of the study. 

The clinic will run on a daily basis, including weekends, in order to provide the highest level of access to participants in the study, and those receiving the vaccine. Superintendent Richie Smith noted that there are several events happening at the Performing Arts Center, such as the African American Film Festival, running on the weekends that could cause traffic and interfere with the study.

In other business, the school committee is slowly working toward voting on a finalized regional agreement document necessary to be considered by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for entry into its grant program. That agreement will need to be put forth to select boards and then to townspeople at town meetings. But there are several elements within the regional agreement that will need to be solidified before requesting that it be approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and sent off to the MSBA. 

According to committee chair Robert Lionette, the formation of a revolving fund for students coming into the school from outside the Martha’s Vineyard school district still needs to be decided on. 

For accounting purposes, DESE doesn’t want the school to place funds from out-of-district students into the main operating budget. Committee member Mike Watts explained that if there is a student that wants to attend the high school from Falmouth and they receive funds from the town of Falmouth, there is no line item in the budget to legitimately hold that money. 

“That’s why we need a revolving fund to actually receive and handle those funds,” Watts said. “Let’s do what is going to get DESE to agree to this as fast as possible, which would be establishing the fund.”

Business administrator Mark Friedman said the high school would need to approve policy on how those revolving funds are spent — whether they are used to offset the budget toward the end of the year, or for some other purpose. 

A motion from Watts to establish the fund and include language in the regional agreement for enrolled students who are not from the district was approved unanimously. 

An additional element yet to be voted on in the regional agreement is whether or not to do a three- or a five-year rolling average for enrollment. Certain towns that see significant variations in enrollment have voiced concern that they will bear the brunt of the cost for a school building project if their pupil numbers are unusually high for a particular year. 

Friedman said both rolling averages over three and five years equal out to be about the same overall, it’s just a matter of “how quickly an assessment goes up when enrollment goes up, and how quickly an assessment goes down when enrollment goes down.” He noted that a three-year rolling average would be easier for him and other school financial planners to manage, versus a five-year. 

Lionette said that the regional agreement does not include language for the building project associated with the MSBA — that will be included in an addendum that will be sent to DESE afterward. “I wanted to make sure that’s OK. That DESE is all right with getting this document and reviewing it, with the understanding that it’s not complete,” Lionette said.

Smith said it’s fine to send an incomplete document to get the process going, but he said a better approach may be to have school attorney Nancy Campany attend the next high school meeting. At that time, she could insert the addendum into the main document, including the school working group’s agreement on a onetime capital project funding formula. “Then we can come here with a complete document, and even possibly put a remote meeting together with DESE that would look at the timeline of approval for the regional agreement,” Smith said. 

According to Smith, if the school can indicate to the MSBA by Sept. 1 that there is an approved DESE document, and that select boards are asking townspeople to hold special town meetings in the fall to approve the regional agreement, “I think those are the indicators that will help the MSBA move us forward.”


  1. This article is about a public health matter and should be available for ALL and not require subscription to view.

    • Why? The Times is not a government run newspaper, nor is it a non-profit. It is essentially a privately owned business trying to make money. And one of the ways they make money is by selling subscriptions.

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